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product design

02 Sep


Tectonic Shifts #01: The Internet of Things (IoT)

September 2, 2014 | By |


Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

What happens when you connect everything to the internet? The umbrella term Internet of Things (IoT) describes a wide range of technologies and applications ranging from sensor-packed, connected homes (Smart Home) to Wearables (connected fitness bands, smart watches) to networked factories or logistics centers (M2M, or machine-to-machine communications). The field is split between consumer-focused products on one hand and large-scale industrial applications on the other. While the estimates about market sizes and impact differ dramatically, everyone agrees that it’s huge, and growing fast. No matter which industry your company is in, this is not a topic to be ignored.


The exact estimates on the size of the market differ dramatically depending on who does the estimation and on how the market is defined. The one thing all parties agree on is that the market volume and impact are huge, fast growing and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg yet.


Some of the ball park figures often quoted in the industry and their sources:

  • USD 14.4 trillion value created between 2013 and 2022 (Cisco)
  • From 2 billion connected objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020 (Intel)
  • IoT market USD 7.1 trillion by 2020 (IDC)
  • More than 50 billion connected devices by 2020 (Ericsson)
  • “it will dwarf any other market” (Freescale & ARM)
  • “potential economic impact of the Internet of Things to be $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion per year by 2025” (McKinsey)

What does this mean for society & industries?

For the industries involved – which might very well be almost all industries to some degree – the growing role of the IoT means

  • large potential for innovation
  • access to new data-driven business models as new services can be built around user data and responsive devices
  • the software side of hardware and consumer devices becomes more relevant as hardware and software merge into new services and products


For the society at large, a utopian view of the IoT would assume…

  • a more responsive environment;
  • empowering technologies like connected systems and tools to allow seniors to live autonomously longer;
  • increasingly computer/robot driven economic growth;


A more dystopian view would instead assume…

  • large-scale security issues due to increasingly networked devices without sufficient emphasis on security and safety;
  • a control (rather than empowering) infrastructure controlled by large conglomerates or governments that fosters compliance and consumption over citizen participation;
  • ubiquitous surveillance through connected devices that spy on their users;


In other words, privacy and participation become a salient design and product issue.

Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?

The IoT and its implications on the availability of data from ubiquitous sensors have impact across most industries. Most directly impacted:

  • design and product development companies since new categories of products become possible;
  • manufacturing and logistics companies (from automotive and aerospace to cargo transport firms) as sensors allow for real-time tracking and predictive maintenance of factories, production lines and logistics networks;
  • consumer electronics companies as the internet and connectedness becomes a default for consumer devices;

Risks & opportunities


  • privacy and security implications are key concerns in connected, data-intense services and products;
  • standards wars and incompatibility between proprietary solutions;
  • data ownership can be tricky;



  • new business models and product categories;
  • products and services aren’t “done” when they’re shipped, as the connection and customer relationship stays relevant over time (software updates, etc.)
  • potential cost savings in industrial settings thanks to real-time information (predictive maintenance, real-time tracking, etc.)

Resources, key players, links

The big players are Cisco, Bosch, Intel, IBM. There is an unusually wide range of other large corporates, SMEs, startups and independent players. Really, the IoT is one of the few fields in which everyone dabbles.

A note

With ThingsCon, I co-founded a conference that focuses heavily on IoT and the new hardware industry. The next ThingsCon will take place in May 2015.


To learn more, read what this series is all about and see all articles of Tectonic Shifts.

28 Jul


Photos of our #paperwear workshop at London’s V&A

July 28, 2014 | By |

On Friday, the Connected team – Alex, Ana and I – were invited to run a workshop at London’s prestigious V&A museum as part of their Friday Late series. Needless to say I was thrilled – but more importantly, we’re all super happy with the results and feedback.



Being at a place as prestigious and as lovely as the V&A is fun in and of itself – but engaging there in an interactive workshop – and a discussion – about the future of technology and our relationship with wearable tech in particular is a whole different level. (More over on the Connected site.)

We have two sets of photos – a professional one as well as my own snapshops – and here are some impressions:


Poster for our workshop.

The reason we were at the V&A.

Setting up the workshop.

The calm before the storm.


Click here to see all the photos. Read More

09 Jul

By Demo Day 2014

July 9, 2014 | By |


Christoph Fahle kicking off demo day.


Pitch #1: Feel The Beat, a wearable metronome for learning to play music.

This is what the current Feel The Beat prototype looks like:


Pitch #2: BeaconInside, a solar-powered indoor Bluetooth Low Energy beacon for indoor location based services.


Pitch #3: Get Track ID, low cost music identification hardware for clubs.


Pitch #4: EasyCharge, a simple to install, ceiling mounted charging point for electric vehicles.


Pitch #5: Wotch, a strap to add smart watch functionality to your traditional watch.


Pitch #6: Scoutee, a device to measure the speed of your baseball pitch.


Pitch #7: The Basslet is a wristband that lets you feel the bass of music.


Pitch #8: Prepaid Power, open source, decentralized electricity supply.


Pitch #9: Superclock, a connected clock that displays when your subway will leave the station.


Pitch #10: Coolar, an add-on to fridges that turns heat into cold through evaporation and Silica gel to save energy


A complete list of all the teams:


03 Jul


The most interesting indie R&D shops

July 3, 2014 | By |

Indie R&D Shops


For future reference, a short list of some of the more interesting independent companies, studios, design and dev shops that are engaged in invention, prototyping or research & development.

Some work mostly in software, some more with hardware or interfaces. Some more conceptual, some more product-oriented, some squarely in between.

  • Hubbub invent and build playful digital products. Berlin/Utrecht.
  • überproduct. Protyping and external R&D, in code or on paper. Berlin.
  • The Incredible Machine. Focus on connected devices/IoT. Rotterdam.
  • Near Future Lab. Thinking, making, design, development and research practice. (Several locations across California & Europe)
  • Relative Wave. Focus on software and visual stuff. San Francisco.
  • BERG London. Just included for historical reasons as they are not taking on client work after transitioning their business to build BERGCloud.
  • MCQN is all about the IoT. They build connected devices, for clients and themselves. Liverpool.
  • turns hardware prototypes into finished products. London.

If you are aware of others that should be part of this list, please let me know.


Full disclosure: Many friends on this list. Alper of Hubbub and I share an office at the time of writing this. Hubbub, überproduct, The Incredible Machine and BERG London all have been involved as speakers at conferences of mine.

18 Jun


Exciting current wearable projects

June 18, 2014 | By |

For future reference, a few current wearables projects and products I find particularly interesting, in no particular order:

  • Urban Armor is a collection of DIY wearable electronics that help women exercise control over their personal/public space.
  • Ringly is a line of connected rings that let you put your phone away and your mind at ease. It connects to your phone and sends you customized notifications through vibration and light.
  • Moto360, Motorola’s Android-based smart watch, announced to be released this summer, is on the corporate end of the consumer gadget scale, but it’s ambitious and really nice looking, at least judging by the current renderings. Without a long-term commitment (let’s say 5+ years) that the software will be maintained and updated, smart watches are a slightly silly investment
  • x.pose is a wearable data-driven sculpture that exposes a person’s skin as a real-time reflection of the data that the wearer is producing. Personally I’d prefer it didn’t try to be lingerie-ish but rather, dunno, a face mask or so, but it’s an interesting concept.
  • is a database of wearable UI concepts.
  • The Dash, a wireless in-ear headphone set that also tracks vital signs, is Bragi’s first product. It’s very ambitious in scope and also one of the most successful Kickstarters from Europe.

10 Apr


Smart appliances & consumer priorities

April 10, 2014 | By |

The other day I ordered a new washing machine. Our old one had broken down, mid-wash, and the cost for the repair would have been out of proportion. So I quickly checked a few reviews and settled on a new one, ordered it online to be delivered a couple days later and was done with it.

Yesterday it occurred to me – 9th of April is Internet of Things (IoT) Day, you see – that it never even crossed my mind to check for a smart, connected washing machine.

The Internet of Things is on my mind every single day in work and peer discussions. I have a conference about it (ThingsCon)! And still, not a single thought about a connected washing machine.

Habit? Maybe. Was I in a hurry to replace the old machine? Certainly. But mainly I think it’s a matter of priorities, of actual problems to be solved. It’s just not currently important enough as an issue.

As the smart folks over at BERGCloud have demonstrated, a smart washing machine would be very useful and nice, if done right:


Cloudwash: the connected washing machine from BERG on Vimeo.


But this got me thinking about solutionism, and how many IoT products currently are solutions looking for a problem, diluting a field that’s hard to grasp for consumers to begin with.

Also, I started a quick search for current connected washing machines. Turns out quite a few brands do offer smart machines right now. But I dare you, right now, to try to figure out details for, say, a Miele smart machine. It’s impossible to navigate and figure out online what’s going on. After some embedded, hard to read, PDF-ish magazines with praising connectivity in general, I gave up. It almost seems like they aren’t even trying to communicate their offers in the field.

Add the relative longevity of household appliances and connectivity isn’t such an easy sell.

My laundry, for better or worse, will be washed without smartphone for a while to come.

17 Mar


The year of the connected device, but consumer IoT startups face big challenges

March 17, 2014 | By |

Over on the BoschSI Internet of Things blog, I contributed a short piece on the challenges that startups in the consumer IoT space are facing.

There is hardly any doubt that 2014 is the year when connected devices – particularly wearables – will go mainstream. Technology tradeshows and media alike are practically bursting at the seams with new products, concepts, and announcements for connected devices.

It’s worth noting that this is quite a special slice of the Internet of Things: this isn’t about the industrial internet, it’s about bringing the IoT to consumers. This is a very different story altogether, a segment with its own opportunities, challenges, and dynamics, one that exists at the intersection of various verticals – think home automation, wearables, connected mobility, personal analytics, health tech. It’s a space where the lines aren’t yet fully drawn, the terminology not yet fully evolved – which is usually a sign of a field that’s moving quickly and innovating. In other words, this is where some truly innovative and interesting stuff is happening.

Read the full text here.